In a development we’ve only been anticipating since Day One, the family of Ahmed Mohamed is threatening to sue over a September incident in which the 14-year-old was arrested after he brought a home-rebuilt alarm clock to school in Irving, Texas. The family’s attorneys have sent letters to the school district and city asking for a total of $15 million to avoid a civil rights lawsuit over Ahmed’s interrogation, arrest, and what they allege were the school and city’s subsequent attempts to smear Ahmed as a troublemaking troublemaker who was looking to make trouble (as Donald Trump might put it). The family seeks $10 million from the city and $5 million from the school district.
The family says they recently moved from Texas to Qatar in part because the city and school district had stirred up so much anti-Islamic sentiment that the family had received numerous threats and no longer felt safe in Irving. The attorneys’ letter to the City of Irving lays out the complaint against the city and school district, conveniently summarized by the Dallas Morning News:
– It says police illegally questioned Ahmed without his parents present, even after the 14-year-old asked for them.
– It says that during the questioning, Ahmed’s principal threatened to expel him if he didn’t admit that his clock was a hoax bomb—though he had never claimed it was anything but a clock.
– After police dropped the charges and news of the arrest went viral, city and school officials devised a plan to “trash Ahmed” to the media, according to the letter.
– School officials insinuated that Ahmed wasn’t telling reporters the truth about his arrest, and publicly pressured his parents to let them release his private student records.
The letter also singles out Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne, who has become something of a rightwing celebrity for her repeated claims that Muslims are attempting to implement Sharia law in Texas — a debunked myth that also inspired a dozen armed morons to picket Irving’s mosque over the weekend. Shortly after the news of Ahmed’s arrest got national attention, Van Duyne appeared as a guest on Glenn Beck’s sad imitation of a cable network, where she suggested there was much more to Ahmed’s nefarious motives, although she was constrained by privacy laws from revealing exactly how terroristic the little terrorist was:
[Beck] claimed — with no evidence — that Ahmed planned to get arrested and embarrass the city in advance of a “civilization jihad.”
“Beck later opined that this was the ‘Islamists’ conspiracy to soften us up, so that we could later be attacked from inside,” reads the letter. “When the guest sitting less than an arm’s length from Mayor Van Duyne called the pencil box a “briefcase,” she did not say a word. She just nodded” […]
The mayor implied in the same interview that officials had another side to the story, but were unable to release it due to privacy laws.
The clock was not built into a “briefcase,” of course, but into a pencil case approximately 8 inches long. Expect people who insist the Mohamed family set up the entire incident to create a false narrative of discrimination against Muslims (where would anyone get the idea that Americans are hysterical about Muslims?) to go full Fact-Check on the portion of the letter describing the clock’s construction:
Ahmed used some spare parts and scrap pieces he had around the house to assemble a digital clock. He routed the circuitry to run through a motherboard and enclosed his creative contraption in a little locking pencil case with the dimensions of approximately 8.5 x 5.75 x 2.5 inches.
This isn’t an accurate description; hobbyists who “reverse-engineered” the clock have made it quite clear Ahmed disassembled a factory-made alarm clock and reassembled it inside the pencil case, which proves either Ahmed put less original work into the clock than initially reported or he is a lying terrorist wannabe who must be waterboarded until he confesses his family’s dangerous plan to destroy America. However, since the threatened lawsuit doesn’t turn on the question of how the clock was constructed, but rather, on the city and school’s overreaction and violation of his rights when they questioned him without advising him of his Miranda rights or allowing his parents to be present when he was questioned, the details of the clock’s construction are really a sideshow. A sideshow we will hear about endlessly, of course, because it “proves” the kid is no electronics genius.
On Fox and Friends Tuesday, we got a taste of how Wingnut America will cover this story. Genius legal analyst Brian “The Rapey-looking One” Kilmeade fretted the attorneys’ letter was an “extortion” attempt:
EliSabeth Hasselbeck: They say he was illegally questioned, that he threatened, he was threatened with expulsion, he was defamed in the media, and wants fifteen million dollars and an apology letter from officials […]
Brian Kilmeade: If the government refuses to cough up the fifteen million dollars the law firm will file a suit for damages, so —
Hasselbeck: They have sixty days to do so.
Kilmeade: What’s this, extortion?
Steve Doocy: It’s, look, they think they’ve got a good case, they think the kid was maligned. According to the demand letter, as well, seven adults interrogated him and pressured him to sign a confession letter about a hoax bomb.
We really like that “extortion” line. Apparently, Brian Kilmeade has no idea how litigation often works: demand a settlement first, because it’s worth a shot, and if that doesn’t happen, file a lawsuit asking for huge damages (then settle for far less). Extortion would be “pay us or we’ll do something terrible,” not “pay us so you can avoid the trouble of a lawsuit that could wreck you if we win.”
In any case, get ready to hear more about how the Mohamed family cleverly arranged this whole mess knowing Ahmed would be mistreated, and then exploited it for financial gain. Ahmed may only be a beginner at electronics, but according to the rightwing press, his family has a genius for manipulating the school, the city, the whole internet, and the national media into making it seem like Ahmed’s arrest had something to do with his being a Muslim. Muslims are crafty that way.